Red Dots - Basic Use and Co-Witnessing

Red Dots - Basic Use and Co-Witnessing

This is a discussion on Red Dots - Basic Use and Co-Witnessing within the Defensive Rifles & Shotgun Discussion forums, part of the Related Topics category; Red Dots - Proper Basic Use and the Reason for Co-Witnessing Whether it's on the forums or in a training environment, there are a couple ...

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Thread: Red Dots - Basic Use and Co-Witnessing

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    VIP Member Array jonconsiglio's Avatar
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    Red Dots - Basic Use and Co-Witnessing

    Red Dots - Proper Basic Use and the Reason for Co-Witnessing

    Whether it's on the forums or in a training environment, there are a couple things I hear or see that need addressed so those running red dots, or considering purchasing them, can fully understand proper use and get the most out of their set up.

    One of these things is people co-witnessing with their irons when firing their weapon. I've heard it mentioned before, but I never realized how common this was until I started paying attention to it. In my opinion, if you take the time to co-witness your irons with your optic every time, you have little more than a painted front sight that cost you hundreds of dollars.

    The second thing is seen more than heard on the forums and it is one of the biggest issues I see with the speed of first round hits. What I've noticed many shooters doing is bringing the rifle into a firing position from a ready position, then taking the time to center the dot in the optic, most not even realizing they're doing so. This is counter productive and can slow you down considerably. To get to the bottom of the issue, we need to understand how a red dot works and what it is truly designed to do.

    First, let's take a look at zeroing. Very simply, for me, I will co-witness the dot with the iron sights that are already zeroed. Keep in mind that a front sight post is typically 8 MOA and your Aimpoint will be 2 to 4 MOA and your EoTech will be 1 MOA.

    See Image 2 below for a lower 1/3rd co-witness.

    Once I've done this, I'll set my target at my desired zero range and fire five rounds. Usually I'll be very close and only need very minor corrections, if any.

    I'll mention absolute co-witness and 1/3 co-witness quickly. All that an absolute co-witness means is that your irons will line up somewhere near the center of your optic, nothing more. Lower 1/3rd means they'll line up somewhere *in the lower 1/3rd.

    This is not exact, but close. This also does not mean that you need to view your red dot in the center or lower 1/3rd at all times, it's just where the irons and red dot co-witness. Contrary to what some believe, co-witnessing with your irons will not be more accurate that using the red dot alone.

    This leads me to my next point, which is that centering the dot will do almost nothing for accuracy and will quite likely slow you down. I've seen so many shooters, often LEO's that are somewhat new to red dots, that are showing only minimal improvement on first shot times from a ready position. When we try to figure out the reason, it usually comes down to them centering the dot in the optic.

    From a low ready, for example, we should be bringing the rifle to a firing position and firing as soon as we catch a glimpse of the red dot covering the area we intend to shoot. This could mean that the red dot is in the top left corner of the optic, top and center, or to the right and center as I show in images 3, 4 and 5. Only when the shooter can grasp this idea will they show considerable improvements in first shot times.

    This isn't so much about the benefits of a red dot as it is proper use, but just to mention a few - a red dot will allow you to focus on the target and not the front sight post or dot. It will be much easier to follow when firing multiple rounds and will also be much more visible in low light. I know very few shooters that cannot shoot faster with a red dot than they can with irons. In most cases, they're more accurate as well.

    If I'm firing at 200 meters from the bench, of course I'll center the dot in the optic as I'm trying to be as consistent as possible with my cheek to stock weld and everything else for that matter. But, in most other situations, I'm just looking for a quick flash of the dot covering my intended target in the general area I want to shoot it.

    Image 1 - The setup. Aimpoint M4s and KAC folding iron sights. 2" square about 10 feet away.



    Image 2 - Lower 1/3rd co-witness. The only time I should see his is when I'm zeroing my rifle or doing a quick check to assure my irons and optic are still zeroed (or close). The reason the dot is slightly above the front sight post is I use a 6 o'clock hold with irons and I hold over the target with the dot.



    Images 3, 4 and 5 - This is how we should view our dot most of the time. The rifle may have moved slightly between pics, but as you can see, the dot is still in the same general place on target regardless of where in the optic it is positioned. The irons and barrel are still in the same place, as is the optic. The only thing that has changed is our view or the red dot. The bullet will still impact the same place in all three pics below.







    Image 6 - should our red dot fail or should we enter a brightly lit environment from a dark environment and not have time to adjust our optic, this is how we'll view our irons through the tube. There are other options like using the tube as the rear aperture or viewing the front sight post over the rear aperture, but we'll save that for another time.



    Well, that's about it. This was basically remedial red dot. I just wanted to have something like this posted with pics as I find myself explaining it nearly on a weekly basis. So now, I can just post a link. I didn't want to get into parallax just yet. Even though the Aimpoint is considered parallax-free, there is a small amount at close range.

    Oh, keep in mind that when you are using a 3x magnifier with a 4 MOA red dot, the dot is still 4 MOA when viewed at 3x, the dot does become 3 times larger, but so does everything else, which means it still only covers roughly 4" at 100 yards.

    I hope this at least gave someone a slightly better understanding of the benefits of a red dot. Done right, it should allow you faster first round hits as well as faster follow up shots, not to mention the benefits when in awkward shooting positions and when the heart is pumping at 180 because it's dark and scary and things are about to get wild.

    As always, if anyone has any questions on this or more advanced use/issues, post or PM me.

    Jon
    sgb, peckman28, zacii and 21 others like this.
    Proven combat techniques may not be flashy and may require a bit more physical effort on the part of the shooter. Further, they may not win competition matches, but they will help ensure your survival in a shooting or gunfight on the street. ~Paul Howe


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    sgb
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    Good post.
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    Very solid and informative, thank you for sharing. I can say, even when qualifying in the Air Force before deploying it was not explained to us this way at all, even though we use M4s w/ Aimpoints and BUIS. I probably learned more from this that from the entire qualification course and the combat training we received about how to properly use a RDS.

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    Outstanding post, Jon

    Very useful information

    Do you mind if I refer/link people to it in the future?
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    VIP Member Array jonconsiglio's Avatar
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    Thanks guys, I appreciate the comments. Glad I could help peckman28, ask here or PM me if you have any other questions.

    Zacii, my whole reason for posting this (posted on 3 forums) was to have something to link to when this came up. I spend a lot of time on this regularly, and just like painting, the question comes up quite a bit. Link to it or repost it all you want. That goes for everyone.
    Proven combat techniques may not be flashy and may require a bit more physical effort on the part of the shooter. Further, they may not win competition matches, but they will help ensure your survival in a shooting or gunfight on the street. ~Paul Howe

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    The whole idea of the red dot is once it is zeroed , you bring weapon to ready dot on target and fire That is what makes them so darn great .
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    Quote Originally Posted by Smitty901 View Post
    The whole idea of the red dot is once it is zeroed , you bring weapon to ready dot on target and fire That is what makes them so darn great .
    Exactly. But sadly, many miss this point and then try to center the dot in the optic or co-witness constantly with their irons. I've seen a number of guys that would be just as well off paying me $500 to put some glow paint on their front sights.
    Proven combat techniques may not be flashy and may require a bit more physical effort on the part of the shooter. Further, they may not win competition matches, but they will help ensure your survival in a shooting or gunfight on the street. ~Paul Howe

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    Good post. I don't know how many people I had to correct at ranges while in the Army including officers and other NCO's. Sad thing is they weren't just doing it wrong, they were also teaching it wrong. I don't know where the idea of "lolllipopping" the dot on top of the front sight came from but it's dang hard to kill lol.

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    VIP Member Array Smitty901's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jonconsiglio View Post
    Exactly. But sadly, many miss this point and then try to center the dot in the optic or co-witness constantly with their irons. I've seen a number of guys that would be just as well off paying me $500 to put some glow paint on their front sights.
    When the Army made the M68 a standard issue Item and wanted it on every soldiers weapon I was against it at first. Old school old thinking. I my mind I could not see how any sight could be faster that iron sites for reflective fire. I mean any thing other than iron was for longer shots and a bit more time getting the prefect site picture right.
    They sent senior NCo's over to train up first , remember the saying train the trainer,. The instructor ask us to give it a chance .
    We lined up on pop up targets at 100 meters we would walk fire walk fire until we were right on the targets with Iron sites. They scored us most did well.
    The next day we put the M68 on did a quick lolllipoping zero with the iron sites and ran the same range we had the day before, every one in line shot better and after a full day on the range the hits were all on target and in tighter groups.
    I came back a believer and still am. They quickly moved on to all kinds of new and better red dot type sites the MARS ect but the principle was the same .
    I liked the MARS so much I own one .
    Where lollipoping went wrong was some got the idea that was what your site picture was suppose to be. It was just a quick way to zero close enough to use it . Once zeroed you where not suppose to put the dot on the post. We noticed a lot of that when we went to train support units.
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    RKM
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    One thing I notice when handing my rifle to somebody unfamiliar with red dots is, they close one eye. Understandable. I did the same thing when I first looked through an Eotech. I'm not an instructor, these are just friends and relatives. I show them by flipping the front cover shut, of just covering the front of the optic with my hand that if you leave both eyes open, you can still get shots off as you see the dot with your right eye (or left) and your opposite eye sees the target. Your brain combines them. There is no need at all to shoot with one eye closed. Even with a magnified scope. However, squinting my left eye does aid in shooting with magnified optics, but if you can simply concentrate on the image your right eye is picking up, closing one eye even with magnified optics isn't needed.

    I also show them exact what you described that the dot doesn't need to be centered. Red dots really are a huge advantage over irons. And with the quality of Aimpoint's, you may not even need back-up irons, as an Aimpoint isn't likely going to fail from simple abuse. Only way I see an Aimpoint failing from the use I dish out is the battery dieing, which has 5 year life anyway. This doesn't mean I'm removing my irons though :)

    Another benefit or RDS I find over irons is at long distance, 100 yards and more, the irons "cover" the target. You can't be nearly as precise as you have this fuzzy circle, a nice crisp post and a fuzzy target that you can hardly ever see. With RDS, both eyes open again, focus on the target and you're good to go.

    The only way irons are better is that they can't run out of batteries.

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    VIP Member Array Sticks's Avatar
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    Great post Jon. I see a "AR shooting basics for Newbs" sticky in the making.

    Quote Originally Posted by RKM View Post
    ... by flipping the front cover shut, of just covering the front of the optic with my hand that if you leave both eyes open, you can still get shots off as you see the dot with your right eye (or left) and your opposite eye sees the target. Your brain combines them. There is no need at all to shoot with one eye closed. ...
    This is also a good way to help eye dominant issues get sorted, or become ambi-vision. Do it enough (we are talking A LOT, like 3 hours a day, 3x a week), eventually even with a strong magnified scope you can shoot both eyes open and be able to transition between the two vision inputs with little effort.
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    Great thread. Nice job, Jon.

    I think some (myself included) have learned bad habits from poor quality RDS's that suffer severe parallax issues.
    It is also hard to give the habits learned from hunting etc... Heck i still sometimes revert to a weaver stance and cup-'n'-saucer with a handgun even though i know i shoot better with isosceles stance.
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    Jon, great piece! I always wondered how co-witnessing became misconstrued as having to use your optics and your BUIS (they call them "back-up" for a reason!) together every time, but you're probably right - people didn't realize it was just to confirm initial zero.

    Also, thanks for pointing out the big advantage of combat optics, RDS or holographic- if the dot's on your target, so is your round, regardless of whether or not the dot is centered. CQB is all about getting off the quick "snap" shot, without wasting precious seconds trying to align the front and rear sights. Also, I think what RKS said bears re-emphasizing, that with optics, the focus is on the target, not the front sight. That's why combat optics are also helpful outside of CQB range, where your front post is not obscuring the target, or the target isn't "fuzzed out" because of the distance and your focusing on the front sight.

    I've always enjoyed your posts, in any of the forums you're on. They're informative, authoratative, and without the empty chest-thumping you so often see. Keep up the good work!
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    OK... I have to confess... Former Army officer and current LEO... I am new to Red Dots and I always thought you had to center the dot in the optics reticle....
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    Quote Originally Posted by GunTrooper View Post
    OK... I have to confess... Former Army officer and current LEO... I am new to Red Dots and I always thought you had to center the dot in the optics reticle....
    It really depends on the optic. An Aimpoint, EoTech and other quality RDS are parallax free (past a certain yardage) so wherever the dot is, the bullet should go. You don't have to have the dot centered in the optic to achieve an accurate shot. Cheaper dot based optics will have greater degrees of parallax and will need a more consistent sight picture.


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